Bunnytown Tales

by Debra Landau

© 1999-2004


Thoughts on the Easter Bunny

Ah, spring. It is the time of year when thoughts turn to NCAA basketball, thong bikinis, Claritin Redi-tabs, headstrong Aries, and rabbits with eggs. Now let me just say right at the top that I do not advocate changing any of this. Who am I to undo centuries of cultural practices culminating in MTV's Spring Break and milk chocolate in the shape of cholesterol-laden orbs? But borderline obsessive-compulsive that I am, I just have to ponder how all this came to be. How did we come up with the Easter Bunny anyway? There are historical reasonings which incorporate myths and such from all over Europe, Africa, and Asia, where hares and rabbits proliferate and provide epicurean delights for many species:
see Rabbit on the Moon.

Basically what we have here is a spring rite celebrating fertility and its connection with lunar cycles - what with the moon influencing both the tides on earth and those inside ripe female humans. Other than being somewhat nocturnal, hares and rabbits have little to do with the moon really. They breed throughout the year, but do usually begin the mating season in spring with a fair amount of chaos. In March males race and leap about fields, not only boxing each other, but also engaging females who rise up in defense against their would-be mates. Somewhere along the line the Brits saw all this and coined the phrase, "Mad as a March hare." And then Lewis Carroll, hopped up on cocaine, decided to team up such a hare with an equally mad hatter and an indolent dormouse in a never-ending tea party, resulting, of course, in the perfect children's story. Now I admit that watching the large-footed ones leap and zig-zag about does bear some resemblance to NCAA March Madness championship basketball, but I'm pretty sure that rabbits and hares alike are pretty bad shots.

Which brings me to the whole egg thing. As much as I love the long-eared ones, I wouldn't begin to trust them with such fragile containers of new life. Ever seen how furiously they dig with those front paws? They do have furry cushioning on the soles of their hind paws, but that is to provide traction and soft landings only. And just what does the Resurrection have to do with ovulation? The ancient Hebrews weren't exactly feminists. Didn't the Early Church frown on "going at it like rabbits?" Female rabbits can and do mate again within hours of delivery, producing up to 7 litters a year. Ever wonder why an Easter bunny versus a hare? I think it's because rabbits are highly sociable like humans, living in the architectural marvels that are their warrens, while hares are relatively solitary creatures like hermits and the Unabomber. Of course, nobody seems to care that warrens are usually overseen by one dominant female and not by an elite bunch of males sitting around smoking leaves and deciding which activities are sinful when committed by anyone other than themselves.

OK, I have some hostility there. But isn't the Easter Bunny gay anyway? Think about it: decorated baskets, lilies, and all those pastels - about as subtle as that Teletubby Tinky Winky.
But anyway, if you put all this together, you can see why buying a bunny for your little human may not be a good idea this time of year. Of course, there are other reasons to ponder: see Why Bunnies and Easter Don't Mix
. And in conclusion I just ask you to consider that if you save the head and shoulders of your chocolate bunny for appearance's sake, as I was taught to do, then what part of the poor rabbit are you biting into first?




Celebrate the Year of the Rabbit!

1999 was the Year of the Rabbit in Chinese astrology. (Actually February 16, 1999 to February 4, 2000.) GO BUNNIES! For more astrological type information, see Shelly Wu's Chinese Astrology page YEAR of the RABBIT

Several sources, including Wu's site, call this cycle the "Year of the Earth Cat." Make no mistake, an "earth cat" is a rabbit or hare, one of those big-eared, hopping critters in the Lagomorph family of mammals. Rabbits do have some similarities with cats. They are very curious and educate themselves with intense, close-contact sniffing. Rabbits purr when contented and groom themselves frequently. For better or worse, rabbits can not upchuck hairballs and require lots of roughage to get their fur through the proper channels. This is quite a statement, considering that rabbits eat nothing but "fiber." And there is the biggest difference between cats and rabbits: cats eat rabbits, but not vice versa.

People have a lot of different impressions about rabbits. After raising many pet rabbits for over 4 years now in BunnytownUSA, I'd like to share what I've learned from the great thumpers in this Year of the Rabbit. Some of my thoughts are silly and others deep. Hey, it's Saturday! In these times of sex and bribery scandals, I must say that I am impressed with the democracy of the warren. Everybody eats from the same bounty and everybody excavates the property. Prosperity is celebrated with "binkies" (ecstatic leaps and twists and hops) and yet, everyone shares in burying extras for less generous times. The old and sick eat first. One digs and the others lend their approval by expanding on the theme - "exquisite corpse" bunny architecture! Privacy is important and respected. One simply needs to settle in a place, tuck his paws under, lay his ears back and the rest will know that he is meditating on the earth's bonanza, silently chanting the mantra, "Produce ... produce ..."

There are clear rules to living a satisfying life in the world of the rabbit. Softness is important. Try to save somethingfor a dry day. Get down to the roots when you can. Get lots of rest, preferably cuddling with another warm body. Keep your nose moving and your ears clean. Really put your foot down when you have the need. Show tenderness today to the guy you fought with yesterday. Check out all changes in the landscape and then accept them by thoroughly marking the territory (accented with a binkie here and there). Purr when you are happy and let out a blood-curdling scream when you are not. Nothing else is really worth raising your voice about. Accept that other creatures eat you.

The Year of the Rabbit is supposed to be one of prosperity, justice, and balance. I see all these qualities in Bunnytown every day. Of course, our bunnies bask in luxury and art, without threats from the many natural connoisseurs of rabbit meat. Many folks associate rabbits with fear. Certainly, rabbits and hares are prey for many and they need to react quickly to all serious threats. A hesitant lagomorph is somebody's dinner. But they seem to understand that such is the way of things and that play is just as important as vigilance. A lesson for the Year of the Rabbit may be that to be thin skinned is OK, as long as one protects one's back and lives an entertaining life in the meantime.

Ode to Bunny Noir

He was a beautiful, ebony French lop-eared rabbit. His face looked like that of a lamb and his fur shimmered like velvet. Bunnytown was still small and Bunny Noir brought the population up to 4 pioneer lagomorphs.

He quickly learned the art of digging and was of great service in excavating the warren, the private places of Bunnytown. Over the years he saw bunnies come and go and he became the reigning king of Bunnytown, the wise old grandfather.

Not only had he lived longer than all of them, he had suffered and persevered. He contracted an incurable parasitic infection, fatal to most rabbits. Bunny Noir struggled through the disease and survived, but was left with some neurological scars, most notably torticollis, which left him with little control over movement of his head and neck. With encouragement he learned how to reorient himself and function normally, more or less.

The youngsters would groom the distinguished Noir and nap in a mass of soft fur around him. In the morning I would call out and Grandpere Noir would sum up the effort to lift his head to greet me. One by one the other rabbits would stretch and make way for Noir to lead them to the food. It was like a flower opening to reveal its rich center. The young disciples would gather around their brave leader in a circle about the food and dine. The Buns of the Round Table.

My clients and friends with various disabilities grew to revere him, his fortitude and the respect he commanded. He was their Patron Bunny of Adaptation. He was usually happy to oblige a human hand eager for a feel of soft, black rabbit fur.

At the very end of 1998, Grandpere Bunny Noir left this world. He looked to be in a very deep sleep. Stinky, Jorma, De-Love, Jefferson, Rusty, and Skye are still grieving the loss of their master and are now imparting his wisdom little by little to the new recruits, Harvey the white rabbit and Spalding the gray. The great circle of life continues round and round in Bunnytown.


The Adventures of Lee Houdini

Life had become too easy for Lee Houdini. Lee Houdini was a black and white lop-eared rabbit. For three years now he lived in a place called Bunnytown with as many as nine other rabbits. The male and female humans made sure that all the rabbits had plenty of pellets and often treated them to fresh vegetables and fruits and an occasional hay bale. The humans were always adding structures for shade and allowed the rabbits to dig and redig their warren however they chose. It was all too easy for Lee Houdini. There was no challenge. He craved adventure and total freedom. And vegetation still growing in the ground.

This was not the first time Lee Houdini missed a life of adventure. He once lived with a family of humans that took him from a dull place called The Pet Store. The family called him Spot and kept him in a house. He learned to relieve himself in a gravel-filled tray the humans called a litterbox. The food was good. The smallest human insisted on picking him up and carrying him all through the house in her arms. On certain days she would leave in the morning and not return for hours. Then Lee, nee Spot, would hop
all about the place, looking here and sniffing there. But no matter how hard he dug, Lee could not make the carpet yield a tunnel. He grew restless. He longed to dig real dirt, to feel the wind blow through his fur, to touch noses with others like him. One day the smallest human opened the door to Outside and Lee took the opportunity to explore.

At first he could not stop running. Outside was so much bigger than anything he imagined. He stopped in a spot where grass and weeds grew amid pieces of paper, broken glass, and bits of plastic. The weeds were good, but the ground underneath his paws was hard and rough. Lee Houdini hopped about, looking for water, when he heard, "Holé polé!" He looked up and saw a human with many layers of cloth on his body. "Holé polé," said the man. Lee thought the human would be more comfortable if he had a nice coat of fur, instead of all those layers of cloth. "It’s Swahili," said the man. "Holé polé. It means take your time; go slow." Lee thought this was ridiculous; certainly not the way of the rabbit.

Suddenly the man called out, "Wig Lady, come here!" A woman approached wearing many skins of hair upon her head. She didn't lift her feet, but let them skim the surface of the rough ground. She pushed a shopping cart filled with all manner of cloth in front of her. Behind her she pulled another cart also filled with assorted material. Lee noticed that a large bucket was tied to the second cart. On the bucket big blue letters read, "CLOUT." The holé polé man said, "My, you certainly have a lot of clout there!" "Once," sighed the Wig Lady, "But now it is all used up." The Wig Lady looked down at Lee Houdini and dug down deep in one cart. Finally, she produced a yellow plastic cup which she dipped into her empty CLOUT bucket. She put the cup on the ground and Lee saw that it was filled with water. Lee drank his fill and hurriedly hopped away.

Lee was wondering if the Wig Lady would ever get more clout when he was startled by a car running by very fast. He remembered riding in a car from The Pet Store to the house. Another car ran quickly after the first one. And then another. Lee thought they must be having a race. He wished he could run that fast, but not so loudly. He hopped quickly across the very hard ground on which the cars were running. It hurt his paws. Suddenly a human leg appeared directly in front of him. Two skinny metal legs were on either side of the human leg. Lee looked up and saw a human like any other, except for the mismatched legs. "What now?" asked the three-legged human. Lee thought this was a silly question for an adventurer such as himself and he started to hop away. He looked back and noticed the man was following, reaching his metal legs in front of him and then hopping onto his other leg, the only one with a shoe. Lee hopped. The man hopped. Lee started to show off, leaping and twisting and running. The man just hopped as before. Lee decided to run away.

And then Lee Houdini found a place with many green plants. He explored every inch and the dirt felt very good indeed underneath his paws. Lettuce and collard greens grew alongside turnips and carrots. There were grape vines, cucumbers, squash, and peach trees. Lee felt he was in heaven. For days he ate his fill and then lay down in a form he created in a shady spot by a very small house. Twice a day a tall, thin human walked through the garden and tended the plants. Day after day the human grew angry as he noticed how much Lee had eaten. One day the human walked slowly through the garden with his head bent close to the ground and finally he saw Lee hiding among the plants.

The man left for a time and returned with two other humans, a man and a woman who called the first man Mr. Thomas. A pleasant rain had started to fall and Lee took shelter in the grape arbor. The other man was called Jeff and he looked at Lee and said, "No, he’s not one of ours." Mr. Thomas complained that the rabbit was eating his whole garden. "Can you get him, Deb?" the man called Jeff asked the woman. The woman bent down low and Lee saw that she had a kind face and a mobile nose. The garden was a lovely place to be, but Lee was a little lonely and Mr. Thomas was very unhappy. Lee decided to let the woman called Deb catch him. As he sat cradled in her arms, he found himself eagerly awaiting his new adventure, even though he was sad to say goodbye to the wonderful garden.

And then Lee found himself in Bunnytown. The woman called Deb named him Lee after an old friend of hers. She said she liked the way he moved. Lee enjoyed hopping and digging and eating and sleeping with other rabbits. At times he liked to hop onto the tree stump or the top of the little house where he could see beyond the walls of Bunnytown. One night a big wind arose and a part of the wall called The Gate opened. The other rabbits huddled against the fury, but Lee immediately ran through the gate to see the other side. In front of him lay an expanse of tender green grass and many tasty-looking flowers. Lee had eaten his fill when Deb and Jeff came to put him back in Bunnytown. The humans cornered him several times, but he escaped their grasp, leaping high and running fast. After a time Lee grew tired of the chase and let Deb catch him and place him back in Bunnytown with the others. It was then that he earned his second name, Houdini.

The years passed and Lee Houdini made his way to the grass and the flowers a couple more times. And then came that old need for something more. The other rabbits didn’t understand. In Bunnytown they had everything a rabbit could want. Grandpere Noir, the wise old French lop-eared rabbit, had once lived in a place called The Wild, which he said was very dangerous. He told Lee Houdini of the perils of The Wild - hawks and coyotes and bobcats and such - hoping to convince Lee that Bunnytown was the best place to be. But Lee’s heart raced with excitement when he heard Grandpere Noir’s stories and he longed for a new adventure. And with one flying leap, he was on his way.

"Always in motion is the future."
(Yoda, Star Wars: The Empire Fights Back)

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